Chains and Trains, Pt. 3

This post is the third in a series on my experiences at the NC Bike Summit

How to Turn Elected Officials and other Town Employees

Heidi Perov Perry and Eric Allman described the evolution of their newsletters into the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition. They demonstrated how to legitimize and politicize informal bicycle groups through several steps. First, they need to advise the town on its bicycle master plan, and write themselves in as a bicycle advocacy group. That bicycle advocacy group needs to establish legitimacy rapidly, deciding to be either a 501(c)3 or 501(c)4, getting business cards for leadership, and setting up a good, if basic, website.
They need to have a point person for each player in town government, residents and businesses that will be affected by road closure during rides. They must make the program sustainable, and be creative in identifying and reaching out to other groups whose interests align.

Again, they mention data gathering. They recommend partnering with university, and taking lots of photos. Keep a running list of previous events and activities.

Part of sustainability is funding. Look for grants and public-private partnerships.

Streets Alive and Open Spaces

Salisbury, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem describe their open streets events. They recommend that the events shouldn’t focus solely on cyclists, but if they can be tied in ensure there is a sufficiently large and long enough route.

Every Wheel has a Hub

Jeff Viscount, webmaster of, describes how his site has become a clearinghouse for North Carolina bike rides, the work involved, and the stats that bolster his case in setting advertising rates.

Chains and Trains, Pt. 2

This is the second post in a series on my experience of riding an Amtrak train to the North Carolina Bike Summit in Charlotte

Bikes, Policy, and Politics

The morning discussion featured Representative Chuck McGrady, Will Morgan, Representative Charles Jeter, and Harry Johnson, Jr. They gave a run-down of the sometimes convoluted processes in gaining political momentum for bicycle-friendly legislation. One of the panelists talked about the mysterious origins of Section 7(b) of HB44, which would strip municipalities of the ability to replace automobile vehicle lanes with bicycle lanes during a “road diet” construction project. They mention that sometimes lawmakers have an urban versus rural dynamic, and will block city street improvements that curb vehicular traffic because it is perceived as a slight to the people who must use their cars to get to downtown amenities.

The great takeaway to this panel was how to get a legislator’s ear. While it is suspect, you have to cultivate a personal relationship with the representative. Ask if they have a bike, or spouse has a bike, and would like a ride. Sending a thank you note when a legislator does well in defending cyclists’ rights can make a big difference.

One must always stay vigilant with a bill even if an upsetting section is struck. Sometimes the provision finds another way to get passed. The best quote: “the true test of influence isn’t being able to defeat a measure, but to get one passed.”

Safe, Sustainable, Social Rides

Boyd Safrit, Pamela Murray, and Mike Sule describe their experiences with organizing social rides in Charlotte and Asheville. They emphasize continuity above all else. Being able to keep a group of regulars allows the rides to maintain momentum even during the slower months. The regulars are useful to enforce protocols; Mike Suler enforces riding in complete compliance with the law: while traffic lights and stop signs break up groups, having a well-scouted route can provide regroup points, and regulars can shepherd the broken groups back into the ride. By building the goodwill with safe, legal riding, businesses buy in and can help sponsor things like brochures, maps, and web sites. They also emphasize “overcommunication”, using a listserv, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and smoke signals to get ride details to the group beforehand. Finally, keeping stats gives everyone an idea of what the ride entails: how many customers businesses along the route might expect, what sort of traffic burst a cycling convoy might cause, how much time a ride might take.

Keynote: Gil Penalosa

8-80 initiative emphasizes a city that accommodates mobility throughout the lifetime of its inhabitants. Penalosa laments that elders are a wasted resource: after 65 they often have another “career” worth of life expectancy, but the built environment exacerbates limited mobility and the sense of isolation that senior citizens experience. We learned how to survive, now we must learn how to live, and how do we WANT to live. Change is HARD, and CAVE (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) people are everywhere, but politicians are elected to do SOMETHING, not nothing. Improving mobility isn’t a technical issue: we know the techniques of boosting public transit, carving space from cars back to people, and increasing density. Instead, it’s a political one. Penalosa concludes with 5 Elements of change:

  1. A Sense of Urgency
  2. Political Will
  3. Doers
  4. Leadership
  5. Citizen Engagement

Small Towns, Big Impacts

This panel described the early, authentic outreach that Wake Forest and Marion engaged in their projects to increase cycling. They were able to pursue grants that some cities don’t consider, such as Congestion Management/Air Quality funding.  Public-private partnerships helped Wake Forest publish its BikeWalkRun map with color coding for cyclist proficiency

Chains and Trains, Pt. 1

This is part one of a series of posts I will be making as I attend the North Carolina Bike Summit in Charlotte, NC.

A News & Observer Road Worrier blog post discussed the vagaries of bicycle signage in North Carolina, namely “Share the Road” signs and sharrows. According to George Hess, a professor at North Carolina State University, “Share the road” signs are somewhat confusing to motorists and cyclists alike. Some even interpret them as putting the burden on cyclists to yield to cars. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find this less ambiguous sign on the way to the station this morning.

I hope they use this sign design more in the future. I would prefer if they were a little larger, though.

Related works:
Hess, G. Peterson, N. (2015) “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” Signage Communicates U.S. Roadway Rules and Increases Perception of Safety.” PLOS ONE.